Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Reasons to Celebrate

“The ravages of greed have not entirely destroyed nature’s ability to surprise us with its beauty.”  Alice Walker
 Dan Davis photo, Dunes State park, 2013

An issue of Time entitled “240 Reasons to Celebrate America Right Now” included an article on Kalamazoo, Michigan, “The City Where College Is Free.”  The same could be said for Hammond, where casino money pays for residents  attending a local public institution. Novelist Marilynne Robinson, author of “Gilead” (2004), contributed this reason:
Our universities are admired and respected everywhere in the world, if not in our own legislatures.  We have created a splendid experience for our young people in this very American achievement, and should do everything possible to see that it is shared much more broadly.
Historian and “Finding Your Roots” host Henry Louis Gates, Jr., (above) wrote:
  West Virginia to me is the smell of just-caught trout, coated in cornmeal, frying in Crisco in a black skillet at breakfast time at Smoke Hole on the South branch of the Potomac, in the region where my family has lived since the 18th century.  That’s about as close to heaven as you can get on God’s green earth.

In “Colored People” (1994) Gates revealed that his father worked in a paper mill and as a janitor and that his mother cleaned white folks’ houses.  In 2009 Cambridge policeman James Crowley arrested Gates for disorderly conduct after the Harvard professor struggled to open the front door of his own house.  President Obama defused the publicized racial incident by inviting Gates and Crowley to the White House for beers.  Gates later claimed that he and Crowley shared a common Irish ancestry.

Ray Smock added:
  We had “Skip” Gates at Shepherd University a few years ago.  Beforehand, Phyllis and I drove to his WV home town of Piedmont and I took photographs and printed them in sepia brown color to match the line in his biography where he said he remembers his home town in sepia. One of his aunts guided us around the town pointing out the cemetery where his kin are buried and the swimming pool he helped integrate. While taking pictures a couple of white guys on the street asked me what I was doing, and I said I was preparing a photo display on the town in honor of Gates's visit to our campus. One of the guys looked at me with a scowl and said, “I went to high school with him and I don't think much of him.”  So it goes in a country that needs to be great again.
above, Del McCoury
Joe Klein, who wrote a biography of Guthrie, mentioned that Woody’s daughter Nora heard 77 year-old bluegrass legend Del McCoury and his sons play at the Newport Folk Festival and told him: “I think if my dad had a band, he would sound like you.”  Nora sent him 25 lyrics Guthrie had written, and the McCoury Band recorded 12 of them on “Del and Woody.”  Jeff Tweedy and Wilco did something similar on “Mermaid Avenue” (1998).  Both Woodrow Wilson Guthrie and McCoury were named for Presidents, in McCoury’s case, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Actually, as Ron Cohen pointed out, "Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912, and named after the Democratic presidential nominee, since Wilson, as you well know, was not elected president until November."

One reason to celebrate is that Barack Obama has been an effective and at times inspirational President and is completing his tenure in the White House more popular than ever, boding well for Hillary Clinton' s chances to succeed him.  As I once wrote of Gary mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher, he is an example of America's best attribute, availing opportunities to exceptional people of all races.  Born in Hawaii and reaching maturity in the Windy City of Chicago, Obama has been an inspiration countless people all over the world.
 campaigning in North Carolina; UPI photo by Kevin Dietsch

Post-Trib reporter Nancy Webster sought information about the New Deal agency Works Progress Administration in Northwest Indiana, in existence between 1935 and 1943.  FDR believed unemployed people would rather work than receive handouts, and the WPA even designed projects for writers, artists, actors, and musicians.  In Aetna, for example, a children’s theater program had a noted puppeteer on its staff.  
Historians engaged in,such tasks as creating an Index for local newspapers and Guidebooks with local folklore, sites of interest to tourists, and little known historical facts.  When I told Webster to consult my section on the WPA in “Gary’s First Hundred Years,” she replied that quoting from it would constitute, in her opinion, plagiarism, whereas using statements from our interview was OK.  Whatever.Webster is an excellent journalist, but it is a pet peeve of mine when reporters have not perused my Gary books.

At Quick Cut my longtime barber was backed up, so Nancy cut my hair.  As always, Anna in her fetching Italian accent asked about Toni and the family.  I noted that Alissa is getting married next month.

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